February 20, 2020
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UMaine men’s basketball team cruises past Binghamton for second straight home victory

Tyler Neville | UMaine athletics
Tyler Neville | UMaine athletics
Sergio El Darwich of the University of Maine prepares to shoot a free throw during a recent game in Bangor. The senior guard led the way in the Black Bears' victory over Binghamton on Sunday.

Maybe there is something of a homecourt advantage at the Cross Insurance Center.

The University of Maine men’s basketball team, which played 12 of its first 17 contests this season on the road, scored its second straight victory at home in Bangor on Sunday as the Black Bears handled America East rival Binghamton 86-63.

The win came in the aftermath of UMaine’s 104-point outburst in an overtime win over UMass Lowell on Wednesday, and the combined 190 points — or 95 per game — represents a scoring average more than 30 points higher than their season-long rate entering the homestand.

“When we’re playing defense the way we want to that creates a lot more transition points, and that’s really what we were missing in earlier games this season,” UMaine senior forward Andrew Fleming said.

The Black Bears — who surpassed their five wins from the 2018-19 season by improving to 6-13 overall, 2-3 in America East — also got another big effort from Sergio El Darwich. The senior guard followed up his 36-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound effort against UML with 26 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals against Binghamton.

El Darwich shot 11 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 5 on 3-point tries.

“If you have a couple of all-league guys you have a chance to be good, and right now he’s playing like an all-league guy,” Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Fleming’s been an all-league guy for a couple of years, too, and they have some good pieces around them so it’s a much improved team.”

Fleming contributed 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals for a UMaine team whose lead never shrunk below its 46-33 halftime advantage over the final 20 minutes.

“Sergio’s playing really well right now and shooting the ball well, and that makes it easier on me,” Fleming said. “I don’t have to focus on scoring as much and I feel like I shouldn’t be focused on scoring as much and just letting the game come to me more. I think that’s helped us.”

Redshirt junior forward Nedeljko Prijovic added 14 points, 12 in the first half, for UMaine while redshirt freshman Stephane Ingo came off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

Sophomore guard Sam Sessoms, the third-leading scorer in America East at 17.4 points per contest entering the game, led Binghamton with 21 points. But UMaine’s 10 3-pointers nearly matched the 11 made by the Bearcats, who began the day averaging a conference-best 9.5 3-pointers per outing.

“Their length is probably one of Maine’s biggest strengths,” Dempsey said. “They come out and guard Sam, who’s 5-10 or 5-11, with a 6-7 guy (Prijovic) and there’s help everywhere. Sam got more aggressive as the game went on, but I think early on he didn’t feel like there was much there for him against that length and that helped Maine get off to a good start.”

UMaine also outrebounded the Bearcats 43-23 and shot 53 percent (34 of 64) from the field compared to 43 percent (24 of 56) for Binghamton (7-11, 1-4 AE).

“The rebounding was good, we took care of the ball for the most part, we got out in transition off some of their turnovers and converted those and that was a big difference in the game,” UMaine coach Richard Barron said. “When we shoot well like that we’ve got a chance to win.”

UMaine may have played its best 20 minutes of the season during the first half, committing just one turnover while outrebounding Binghamton 23-11.

The Black Bears maintained control throughout the second half, and as the lead increased, so did the entertainment value for the matinee crowd.

One particular sequence began with the 6-9 Ingo emphatically blocking a close-range shot by Binghamton 7-footer Yarden Willis.

Then Fleming cut through the lane to take a bounce pass from El Darwich and score with a slam dunk.

Freshman guard Peter Stumer soon answered a 3-pointer by Sessoms with a fast-break slam of his own, and when Fleming then took his third steal of the game in for another dunk, UMaine’s lead was 70-49 with 9:35 left.

“We’re struggling right now and I think they’re starting to play well,” Dempsey said. “I thought those two things collided today.”

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